Photography Fees, Rates & Prices in Singapore

My Rates

My rates may not tally with the "market rates". I quote everyone in such a way that the amount of my talent, effort and quality of art work will at least be partially compensated. Everyone's requirement is unique and thus there is no one exact price catered to all individuals. Artistic value is something that is determined by everyone differently.

To me, photography is an art and has its value. I do not do price war with other talents just to secure more projects. I also have limited time and energy (I exhaust myself for every shoot to get the best quality pictures possible, and I try hard to increase quantity by being pro-active during the entire shoot), and thus I can only take up a number of projects within the same period.

If any photographer were to accept a low rate for a project, he is likely not going to put in his 100% effort. Of course, most clients will not be able to tell the differences. However, since every shoot is going to be part of my portfolio and photography is supposed to be enjoyable, I will not allow a low budget project to spoil them (my reputation and the fun).

Do contact me with as much details as possible for a non obligation discussion and quote from me.

Market Rates

After researching in forums, nobody can give a definite market rates for photography. However, I have met a few very experienced photographers in real person and they have told me the market rates for portrait and event shoots are at minimum of $150 per hour. Photographers (companies) who have professional salesperson to work for them to attend to enquiries can easily get assignments at at least $200 per hour. I suppose the salepersons have the skillset to explain properly about the breakdown of cost to customers. I have also heard of popular photographers who will quote at least $300 per hour.

There are, of course, plentiful of photographers who are desperate for jobs and thus, they are willing to undercut the market rate badly. Of course, there are obvious reasons why they are not confident of charging near the market rate.

Do read actual day wedding photography gone wrong.

Set your budget - Your needs and wants

Before you set a budget for the photography services that you are seeking, you should be asking yourself these questions:

  1. Do you need very good quality photographs or do you just want some photographs to be taken?
    A good photographer can produce good work with good equipment, effort and skill, and all these come at a cost. I have come across a few clients whose intention is only about getting photographs taken regardless of the quality, and if I have known earlier, I will try to advise them to approach new photographers instead of spending the extra dollars to engage my services. There is absolutely nothing wrong if you do not need top quality photographs for certain projects since a lot of organisations and individuals in Singapore are also talking about budgeting.

    I personally do not pay for what I do not need as well. Of course, I'm facing problems that some clients do not really know what they want and also, it may sound rude and arrogant no matter how hard I try to sincerely advise them to seek other photographers. I'm not proud, I need the money and I love taking up more projects because I'm crazy in photography; however, I'm not a salesman and I always put clients' situations before these, especially people who have approached me.
  2. Do you need a trustworthy photographer who will turn up on time and not back out suddenly?
    Some people do seek help from their friends and there are a few incidents that their friends suddenly cannot turn up and they approach me right before the commence of their events. Whereas for photographers who accept shoots at low rates, there is a higher possibility of them changing their minds and turning down the shoots when they manage to get better deals on the same timeslots or if they feel really lazy.
  3. If you were a photographer, will you do your best when you are being underpaid?
    Some photographers, especially the new ones and hobbyists, will accept very low rate in order to get projects and build portfolios. Some experienced photographers may also lower down their rates a lot in order to stay very competitive because they need money badly. However, given that the market rate is $150 per hour, do you think the photographer will give in his best if he is being paid less than $100 per hour?

Breakdown of cost for photography services

This session lists the detailed cost breakdown of photography services. If you are looking for photography services from professional photographers, it would be useful to read the entire page carefully to understand more about what exactly you are paying for.

When you engage a photographer's services, you are paying not just for the time spent on the actual shoot; there are many things that you should factor into the cost, duration and effort. Special moments can be captured and be kept forever but the equipment which capture them will wear out over time and they cost thousands of dollars. A photographer has to factor all these into his charges to slowly recuperate the cost of purchasing all the items. Last but not least, you are also paying for his artistic and creative value, which is the very reason you have approached him.

To sum it up, you are paying him for the equipment, skill, effort and time.

  1. Start-up and maintenance
    1. Photography equipment and accessories
      These are things such as camera, lenses, lens filters, screen protectors, memory cards, speedlites, reflectors, colour gels, tripod stands, speedlite stands, umbrellas, cables, batteries, battery chargers, camera bags... etc. The camera bodies and lenses cost thousands each. Every piece of equipment will be worn out or damaged over time. Every camera body has a lifespan in term of shutter count, which means every click is actually taking away a portion of its life.
    2. Computer hardware and software
      These are things such as computer, external harddisks, editing software... etc. The photographer needs these to edit and back up your photographs. Better computers will help photographers to speed up their work so that they can deliver your photographs to you earlier.
    3. Website and server
      Owning a website is essential for businesses nowadays. There is a one-time cost for building up the website and then subsequently, maintenance cost for updates. Besides having to design the website, which can be outsourced at a cost, the photographer needs to produce the contents, such as copywriting, including the service agreement. The domain name and web space (server) both require money. The web space can also be used to store photographs for clients to retrieve.
    4. Marketing
      Marketing can be done both online and offline. It includes posting photographs on social media websites. Online marketing requires gigantic amount of time and effort. Without doing these, you are likely unable to get to know the photographer and his portfolio.
    5. Rental
      Big photography companies may own an office or even studio, which requires rental fee. Depending on the scale of the photography company and the requirements of the shoot itself, there may be fees for the rental of offices or studios.
    6. Electricity bills
      Whether the working area for post-production work is inside an office or home based, electricity bills will be incurred. It includes running the computer and recharging batteries for all the equipment (camera and lighting).
  2. Communication and preparation
    1. Understanding your full requirements
      This can be more time-consuming than you think but it is one of the most important processes. The worst but unfortunately, quite common thing is when the client is unsure of what he wants. Without fully understanding the requirements, miscommunication will arise and that the results may not be what the client wants no matter how beautiful the photographs are. Therefore, photographers may do causal chit-chat with you to find out more.
    2. Consultation
      You may have an idea but sometimes, it is not going to work or will likely produce less pleasing results. For example, you want to have your shoot in a beautiful garden near noon time, bad shadows will appear on your face inside the photographs. You may also be looking for detailed skin touch-up for an event shoot, which is almost impossible for the gigantic number of photographs. The photographer will share his knowledge and experience to eliminate as many problems as possible. It requires both time and knowledge.
    3. Suggestions and ideas
      Based on the photographer's knowledge and experience, he is likely to be able to give you satisfactory suggestions and ideas. Some photographers are known for their creativity and their unique ideas are not something any money can buy - you probably cannot get the same idea from another photographer.
    4. Physical or electronic paperwork (eg. quotation, invoice, contract)
      This is a big hassle, especially for many freelance photographers because what they are interested in is doing photography and not administrative work. Every shoot is unique and thus requires time and effort to prepare the paperwork. There may be software available to speed these processes up but eventually will require additional costs. You may be charged extra if you were to require these, although many photographers have already factored them into the photography rates.
  3. Actual shoot
    1. Assistant(s)
      Assistants are actually very much needed for every shoot. They will help to preserve energy for the photographers. They help to share the load while travelling and ensure that the photographer is free to move around during the actual shoot. Lastly, they need to secure the external lighting (umbrella and stand) from being blown down and damaged by the wind. They will help to speed up the shoot.
    2. Transportation cost
      If the distance is far or the location is not easily accessible, the cost may be higher. Photographers may drive or take a cab to avoid wearing themselves out before the actual shoot. If the shoot requires more equipment, it is inevitable that a cab is needed. Moreover, many events start at peak hours.
    3. Travelling to and from the location
      It takes time and effort to travel with very heavy and bulky equipment.
    4. Time from arrival to the start of the shoot
      Photographers usually arrive earlier for their shoots. Singapore is a high population density city-country. It is not surprising to face traffic jams on the roads or train breakdowns. Therefore, photographers will usually keep a buffered time for travelling. Besides, some venues may not be well located even with the use of GPS and thus may need more time to find. Eventually, there are many chances that the photographers will reach much earlier.
    5. Time taken for the actual shoot
      This is pretty straightforward although most clients mistake this is the "only thing" they are paying for and thus they will assume photography should be much cheaper.
    6. Creativity value and skill of the photographer
      This is the reason for you to engage the photographer after all. Trusting in his vale and skill is crucial for him to find creative ways to take the photos, including the angles and settings he thinks is best for every photograph.
    7. Labour
      The most basic camera equipment for an event shoot like Canon 6D (lightest full frame camera), Canon 24-70mm F2.8L ii (sharpest and most versatile lens), Canon 600 EX-RT (powerful and user-friendly flash) together with other flash diffuser and lens filter weigh around 2kg in total. Imagine yourself holding them for hours. This is also the reason why some photographers injure their hands. Professional photographers are likely to carry extra gears and accessories with them for emergency purposes. Everything will easily weigh over 10kg in total. For portrait and other shoots that require lighting setup, the total weight of the equipment can go beyond 20kg.
    8. Effort
      Photographers snap photographs at their own time and rate. Some experienced photographers may only aim for the important moments while some will enthusiastically go for every moment (documentary style). If you need someone like the latter, you may need to compensate him more for his effort; that is the reason why some experienced photographers are charging lower rates.
  4. Post-Production
    1. Backing up raw photographs
      The first thing a professional photographer does is to back up the raw photographs immediately. No matter how unlikely it is for the memory card and computer to be damaged or corrupted somehow by itself, professional photographers never want to take the chance. Therefore, he will rather spend the time and effort to do the transferring of raw photographs to the computer and external hard disk. Some "hardcore" photographers will even transfer them to two external hard disks.
    2. Post-production
      Post-production (or post-processing) is the process that will take much, much longer time than the actual shoot. It involves filtering of the photographs to remove unglamorous and similar ones, which is not as simple as what you think. Basic editing will require adjusting of the brightness, colour and cropping to fit the frame better. It will also require taking breaks during the process in order to produce better work. If advanced editing is needed (such as to remove flaws on the skin), it may take a few hours for each photograph.
    3. Detailed post-production
      To speed up the process, a photographer can choose to dish away unflattering photographs immediately. However, sometimes he may be able to add some magical touch to some of the "rejected photos", for example, by cropping or rotating them. Efficiency of editing would drop after going through a number of photos and thus some very hardworking photographers would go through the entire album a few times over a few days' time. If a photographer were to spend more time and effort, he will definitely need to quote a higher rate, while a photographer who is less detailed can simply quote you a much lower rate.
  5. Others
    1. Peak periods
      There are periods of the year when there are higher demands for photographers. Photographers may therefore quote higher prices in order to better sustain their services.
    2. Early or late shoot
      If you need the photographer to wake up early or go to bed late, you probably have to increase your budget a little in order to compensate for the health hassle, effort and extra transportation fee, e.g. midnight surcharge for cabs.
    3. Privacy of photographs
      Every single photoshoot is important to a photographer for him to build up his portfolio or even to enter for competitions. These will attract future clients. If you prefer to keep your photographs private, you will have to pay more.
    4. Rush work / Express delivery of photographs
      Photographers may have very inconsistent number of projects. There may be more job offers for a month and fewer jobs for the next month. Since every album will require a lot of time to work on, promising clients earlier delivery of photographs means the photographer has to reject other jobs in this period and thus the client has to pay more compensate for this.

Having the breakdown cost for photography services listed as above, it is, unfortunately, not easy for most photographers to factor all of them into their actual photography fees - the prices will be enormous and thus unaffordable for ordinary people.

Price differences - professional V.S budget photographers

The reason why some established photography companies are quoting you a much higher fee is because they have already factored in most services in their packages, including the time to meet you up face to face for presentation and discussion, travelling, the paper work (official quotation and invoice etc), assistants for the actual shoot and maybe a cup of coffee. They may also include some "goodies" such as photo albums. Of course, the brand name is another reason. For individual freelance photographers in Singapore, they will usually do without the "extra goodies" so that their prices are more competitive.

There are also many photography studios that are quoting very low rates and there are many reasons behind it. Firstly, if you are doing the shoot inside their studios, the heavy equipment are already being set up and the photographer does not have to carry them. Secondly, such studio may be hiring just anyone to do the photography since the setting of the camera and lighting are already fixed. Thirdly, the editing of photographs are mass production. Besides, the staffs are often being underpaid (the fixed and stable income keep them in the company).

As for why a photographer quotes you a much lower fee, there are a few possible reasons. He or she is either new or is only doing it as a hobby. New photographers do not have a portfolio and thus will have to lower their rates in order to secure a few jobs first. However, their services may not be able to last if they do not increase their rates because they will soon realise it is more rewarding to work in a fast food restaurant or as tuition teachers. There are also many hobbyists who are happy enough to have the opportunities to take up any shoot, whereas paying them a small token of fee is a big bonus to them.

Quality of work is a major issue as well. If a photographer can spend less effort during the shoot and post-production, thus freeing up his time, he or she may also take up low budget projects.

Price is a concern for most people, and there is nothing wrong with budgeting. However, what you pay for is what you get, and if you are serious about getting high quality work, the price cannot be the main priority. The value of a photoshoot should not be judged by what a bargain you got it for, but instead should be measured by the overall experience and the calibre of the photographs.

Discount?

It is Singaporeans' habit to ask for discount. When we go overseas to places like Thailand, we tend to ask for discount and there are times when we can get a good bargain of items at less than 50% of the original selling price. In Singapore, people tend to ask for discount as well.

However, providing a service is very different from selling goods. If a salesman sells an item at a cheaper price, he is still making profit and the most important thing is to maintain the flow of money. Once the customer pays for the item, the salesman can quickly attend to the next customer. However, providing a service means the provider can strictly handle only a customer at a time and the process is usually very long.

For example, it may take between one to three hours (my record is five hours) for a photographer to do detailed advanced editing for a portrait photograph. If he were to give discount, he will, by right, still be spending the same amount of effort and time to do the work. Having mentioned "by right", that means some photographers may practise "give and take" - giving in less effort and taking in lesser amount of money.

Most people do not understand this logic and will still expect discount for photography services. Before I began doing freelance photography, my photographer friend, Benson Lin, had already shared that he would try not to take up jobs from friends. After beginning my journey, I have fully understood it and I will usually advise my friends to seek other professional's services instead. Even for refered customers, once they start asking for discount, I will subconsciously want to skip them. It is difficult to turn people down because some of them may feel offended.

I have also heard about this theory that good friends will show support by not asking for discount and, fortunately, I have experienced it.

Interesting read:
This photograph is not free (external website) - it cost the photographer $6,612 to take it.



Finding a photographer is like shopping for a piece of painting. If you appreciate art, you are likely to pay a good price for good work; if you simply need a painting to be hung on the empty wall, you are likely to grab the cheapest deal possible. Unfortunately, most people cannot appreciate art work and it is not their fault for having different interest.
- Skai



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